“Swing, touch, plant and jab” – um OK, what is this all about? Well to follow up with last week’s article about hand position I thought it would be a natural to move to talking about pole usage in your skiing. Again the focuses of most of my articles have spoken of a “balanced and athletic stance”; this is important as this is the natural poise you have as an active person. Our bodies are mechanical devices (if you will) and aligning all parts and places where we bend appropriately sets us up for success.
Last week you will recall I spoke of keeping hands “up and forward” – elbows away from rib cage and hands outside our elbows. This keeps you in balance; remember walking on one rail along the railroad tracks? Now add your poles and it enhances your balance – just like Nick Wallenda used a long pole in his walk across Niagara. How long should your poles be? Well a rule of thumb is to place your pole upside down on the floor; with your elbow at your side and bent at 90 degrees, your hand should be grasping your pole with the basket touching the top of your hand.
Proper use of your pole in your turns will develop a strong lead into your turn besides establish a rhythm in your turns. Most times you will be using a “pole swing” or “pole touch”, nothing dramatic, just a very effective tactile sense for you to use.
Your pole actually “starts: your turn in the sense that as you finish your previous turn and your body moves across your skis in the direction of the new turn, you begin your “pole swing” and let the touch determine the point you are going to turn around. Now you don’t extend your arm out to that point, because you arms and hands are already in front of you – Right? – you just flip your wrist out to trigger the turn. Think as if you were going to toss someone their gloves – underhanded – at the chair next to you in Yodeler Lodge, that is the motion your wrist should make. Don’t cock your wrist, let your hand open a bit so the grip of the pole stay in touch with your fingers as they open and close.
Go over to Lower Crystal and begin making medium size turns, even count in your turns. 1-2-3 –touch, 1-2-3-touch…
Do this at a moderate speed and let your skiing develop an easy rhythm. Do this several times then change up your tempo, do long turns, then do short turns, you will find as amp up the tempo you still feel well balanced and dynamic. This pole usage is developing you into an “active” skier; your entire body supple and moving with the rhythm mountain! You will find sometimes you do not even need to touch your pole, but that just the swing is enough to give action and stability. As you turns get more dynamic and your “center of mass” – core – gets closer to the snow, you will should letting your baskets poles swing farther away from your body, so they do not hit the snow as you bring them around for your next turn. Watch one of the staff when they are heading down Mardi Gras at a high rate of speed and see where they are carrying their hands and poles.
A pole plant is what you use as the angle of the slope increases; go to Shadows or Firecracker and now do some short turns and now you want to grasp your pole firmly and as you extend across your skis, plant your pole to give you a tactile reference to the pitch you are on, it stabilizes your core so you can turn your feet and legs under you, as you need to make a quicker and more dynamic move to turn your skis. Here maybe you want to use “ one – touch, one – touch”. Be sure to develop strong angles with your hips, knees and ankle, as the pitch is steeper and you need to control your speed and turn shape on this terrain.
Jab? Well maybe not a great term but it worked in the title. On really steep terrain and even in the bumps you need to “Jab/plant” that pole downhill of your boots, your body should be facing downhill, so now you use the strength of that “plant/jab” to “block” your upper body so you can swing your skis around quickly to control your speed and descent on this steeper terrain.
You can do this again on Shadows, Firecracker or even Falcon, though now your tempo must be “Hut! Hut!, Hut!”
Use all your equipment to ski well everywhere. Practice these techniques and just see if you don’t start to feel less fatigue and more comfort on all terrain.
There are many more tips available by taking a coaching session from any of our qualified staff.
Our certified PSIA-E/AASI trained staff is always happy to share their passion for improving peoples enjoyment of the sport we all love!
As always; stop and say “Hello” to me or any of my staff you see on the slopes.
Again, no matter where you go to ski and ride always ask for a certified instructor.
“Go with a Pro”
From printed and video educational material of Professional Snowsports Instructors of America/American Association of Snowboard Instructors